It's refreshing to hear a travel management company call out all the greenwashing taking place across the industry. Complex problems require creative solutions, and it's good to see travel taking its carbon problem more seriously.
Business travel has a sustainability problem. As companies become more focused on their carbon footprints and environmental impact, pollution from travel has come into focus as an area ready for improvement.
While more travel management companies are providing tools to track carbon output, few are integrating the means to create sustainable outcomes.
Barcelona-based travel management startup TravelPerk has launched a new product to not just track, but address, the carbon output from business travel flights. The company has partnered with German non-profit environmental group Atmosfair for its new GreenPerk offering, which promises audited carbon offset for €27 (about $30) per ton of carbon produced during a trip.
“We looked at what everybody else has been doing in the corporate travel industry and instead of sharing just the [carbon] data, we tried to solve the whole problem,” said Ross McNairn, chief product officer at TravelPerk. “We looked at more details to understand what the the challenges were for a company that’s going to offset and the next issue was actually ensuring that the way in which they offset was not greenwashing and was done in a legitimate fashion.”
The cost, according to TravelPerk, represents about 4 percent of a typical business trip. By partnering with Atmosfair, the money will go to UN-endorsed environmental projects. Administrators will have insight into which projects are being supported by the money and will be given audited environmental reports about the impact of these projects.
It will be up to company administrators and not individual travelers whether a company opts in to the carbon offset program. They will also be presented with insights based on traveler behavior with suggestions for reducing the carbon impact of their trips. GreenPerk tracks carbon output across all elements of a trip booked on the company’s platform.
Competitors like TripActions offer similar dashboards and insights, but haven’t partnered as thoroughly with environmental groups.
“When I need to purport to actually be doing offsets, the reality of it is that they can be planting a tree, but they can be flying that tree in from China right and thus [causing more pollution],” said McNairn. “We want to make sure that the things that we were doing aren’t in any way creating secondary negative effects and after long discussions with a fair number of our partners it became very clear that they they take this extremely seriously. We’re very confident that we can align that value through our brand and present it to our customers without any any risk to to either of us.”
By granting more visibility into the offset process, it also presents evidence of a company’s commitment to environmentally-friendly choices. As green practices move from nice-to-have to must-have, expect more travel management companies to launch similar programs.
Whether big clients elect to choose a sustainability partner through their travel management company, though, remains to be seen.
“People are so emotionally bound to this issue, it can be incredibly destructive to your brand if you do it incorrectly,” said McNairn. “If you have a look at some of the companies, I won’t say which companies but several of them, if you look through some of the botched attempts to do this it can be very destructive and the big companies get this just just as wrong as everybody else sometimes.”
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Photo credit: An image of TravelPerk's new carbon offset product. The company is integrating UN-endorsed carbon offset programs into its business travel platform. TravelPerk